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  • October 2001

    Cost Benefits of Medical Imaging on Inpatient Costs for Stroke Patients

    Academic Radiology | Suzanne Gleason et al.


    Potential Influence of Acute CT on Inpatient Costs in Patients with Ischemic Stroke


    Suzanne Gleason, PhD; Karen L. Furie, MD; Michael H. Lev, MD; Joan O’Donnell, RN, CNRN; Pamela M. McMahon, BS; Molly T. Beinfeld, MPH; Elkan Halpern, PhD; Mark Mullins, MD, PhD; Gordon Harris, PhD; Walter J. Koroshetz, MD; G. Scott Gazelle, MD, MPH, PhD


    Academic Radiology, Vol. 8, No. 10, October 2001, pp. 955-964.


    In 2001, a group of researchers conducted a study evaluating the potential effects of increased imaging for patients suspected of having acute ischemic stroke. Through a retrospective study evaluating data from 189 consecutive patients displaying stroke symptoms when admitted to a tertiary care facility, scientists aimed to show that by using one single diagnostic study upon patient arrival – combining axial unenhanced CT, CT angiography, and CT perfusion – doctors would be able to diagnose the extent and mechanism of stroke more rapidly than under the current practice of treatment. The cost of the CT angiography-CT perfusion protocol was determined from Medicare reimbursement rates and compared with that of traditional imaging protocols. Cost savings were estimated as a decreased length of hospital stay in most cases; benign (lacunar) strokes were assumed to be handled in a non-acute setting. In addition to evaluating net savings, researchers also determined savings by category: small-vessel disease, large-vessel atherosclerosis, cardioembolism, and other/unknown causes.

    In the base case scenario, total annual net savings for patients with non-small-vessel disease was $1.2 billion. This translates into an estimated per patient savings of $1,695, including cost of imaging procedures. Patients with small-vessel disease were estimated to (in the base case) experience a mean savings of $3,568 per patient. Although these numbers are hypothetical and, as such, subject to certain limitations, the researchers believe nonetheless that the results of this study strongly suggest that a CT angiography-CT perfusion protocol can have a positive effect on treatment and costs for stroke patients.

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